Andrew BondUnited Kingdom
I finally got to play the remnants of my Xmas presents, leftover from my October trip to Essen. The games were Il Vecchio and CO₂ ... and I love them both.
Il Vecchio is the latest game designed by Rüdiger Dorn and, although its theme is well-worn and its goals hardly innovative, the game is interesting, tight, and quick to play. The key mechanism in this game are the 'middle-men', one of whom has to be in the same village as one of your family members (meeples) in order to trigger that village's action. So, the challenge is to get three things aligned simultaneously: family member, middle man, and the town/action you want to take. Very simple and yet challenging to do well.
The rest of the game is conventional collect resources to trade in for VPs later. However, even here the designer has shown his expertise by providing VP tracks in five places (Venice, Milan, another town whose name escapes me at present, and two in Florence) that reduce their rewards while simultaneously increasing the cost to win them! So, the game provides a strong incentive to visit all the towns, not just concentrate on one.
But then ... there are bonus points for majorities in towns, which make you want to concentrate. Plus further bonus points off tiles picked up in the towns.
All very good stuff in a game that plays very quickly with the minimum of rules. Quite possibly the best of my Essen purchases, competing with Ginkgopolis.
'Quite possibly' because I haven't yet decided where CO₂ fits into my list of favourites. I have played it solo twice now and we are in the middle of our first three player game. The great thing is the disconnect between the facilities you place on the game board and those you can use on your turn. You can place and then someone else can use - which means this is a very tactical game, in which you need to keep an eye on other players' resources before deciding what you want to do.
Lobby cards provide some hidden advantage to each player, so it is possible to pull off a surprise move by getting the resources you need to build that power plant right under the nose of your opponents. Great fun!
The game is just dripping with theme and my only complaint so far is that the disaster that occurs each decade when pollution is above 350 ppm seems rather feeble - players who have not contributed a green energy source to the disaster region must pay reparation by way of aid. More of an inconvenience rather than a disaster.
And, as I mentioned before, 7 Wonders: Cities proved to be a big hit with my family, adding some nice variation on a fun game without lengthening the time taken to play.
Happy remains of Xmas!